The following article must have this soundtrack playing in the background and if you refuse to do this, you are reading this thing wrong.
This year in August, gamers everywhere celebrate the 20th anniversary of North American release of Chrono Cross, one of the most critically acclaimed games ever and one of the greatest video games of all time. When this game was released in August 15, 2000, it was one of the “swan song” games on the original PlayStation console. The game was a sequel to another classic game, Chrono Trigger. Like that game, it was completely different than any other RPG at the time. The gameplay, the soundtrack, the graphics, and the art style set itself apart from other RPG series at the time such as Dragon Quest and Square Enix’s own Final Fantasy. Even though it wasn’t a cultural touchstone like those aforementioned series, it was still lauded as a classic and a game that would be remembered for many years to come.
Ironically, it would end up being the last entry to the Chrono series as of this writing.
Despite selling over one million units worldwide (at the time, that was a big deal), Square hasn’t green lit a sequel game to the series since the game’s release back in 2000 (November 1999 in Japan). For years, they have trademarked the names Chrono Brake and Chrono Break but since then nothing has been released. No new information or new content was ever presented. There were comments here and there but no real push for the development of the game. Hironobu Sakaguchi, the lead designer for Chrono Trigger and founder of the Final Fantasy series, stated back in 2001 that the development team of Chrono Cross wanted to create a new game in the series and were in initially pre-production stages but nothing was approved of the project going forward. Some journalists initially thought that something would have been announced by then but nothing came about it. Even after the success of the remake of Chrono Trigger on the Nintendo DS, Square was not interested in pursuing a sequel game for the series.
Jason Schreier, Tech Editor at Bloomberg News, commented on his disappointment that Square didn’t pursue a sequel back in 2012 when he was Editor-in-Chief at Kotaku.
You’d think that Square Enix would enjoy making money and pleasing its fans, but nope. Despite countless rumors about “Chrono Break” trademarks and other crazy plans over the past decade, we’ve yet to see a sequel to “Chrono Cross” (itself a sequel of beloved Super Nintendo RPG “Chrono Trigger”). Why not? No, really, Square Enix, why not? Just the remake of “Chrono Trigger” sold 790,000 copies. Imagine how a third game in the franchise would do.
His frustrations are understandable but I don’t think it’s a situation of them not wanting to make more money but just sheer lack of interest. Not to mention most of the original staff of both Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross have left Square and are currently working on other projects. So even if the company were to entertain the idea of doing a sequel again, they would have to reckon with the fact that it will be completely different than its predecessors. And considering how fans are extremely sensitive when you take a classic property and take it to a new direction, this may be too risky for Square.
And I say screw it! Square should go for it and bring back the Chrono series!
Last time we had a game in the Chrono series, it was divisive among fans but loved by the critics. Chrono Cross was a serious departure from Chrono Trigger but still carried the game’s spirit while introducing something new and of its own identity (no matter how convoluted it was). Trigger focused on the idea that the smallest actions can change the future both in a positive and negative manner. Cross meanwhile focuses on said consequences of the smallest actions and how the effects it has on the future and people’s livelihoods can be downright painful, tragic, and sad but strangely hopeful. This didn’t sit well with fans of the first Chrono game, who were hoping for a more upbeat adventure with a simplistic story but instead got an intense emotional adventure that had a very bittersweet conclusion even if it was still a relatively positive ending.
The idea of doing a follow up can be scary especially when you are succeeding one of the greatest games ever made. However, it wouldn’t be the first time Square did a ballsy move and switched things up with a well-known property. So why not do it for the Chrono series? I probably could understand given that a lot of the themes and concepts from the series have since been used by not only other games in Square but also other JRPGs as a whole. Multiple endings and narrative choices are littered throughout the Persona series much like it was with the Chrono series. The Final Fantasy franchise has toyed with the idea of multiple realities and time travel. So trying to innovate new story themes would probably be difficult since a lot of games nowadays have used their concepts and done it better. I say so what? A new Chrono game doesn’t need to innovate to be great. It just needs to have a really good story and excellent gameplay.
This brings us to the idea of doing a new brand new Chrono game in Chrono Break. I highly doubt that Square Enix would ever bother reading this random blog of some nerdy Black dude from the States. However, if they ever do consider to experiment with this series again, I have some ideas that I think would be beneficial for the new game. Again, these are wishes so try not to think too hard on them.
Anyways here are my wishes/concepts for Chrono Break:
1.) The Chrono lore should not be wholly instrumental to the plot
To me, one of the biggest drawbacks of Cross was that it was way too engulfed with the Chrono lore (a constant with Square’s games). To me, the lore should serve as solely being easter eggs and only should lightly be important to the plot of the game. Fans should not need to play the previous games to understand what a “Chrono Trigger” is or who “Lavos” is (although it would help in better context of things). Just make it the experience simple enough for newcomers while having nice callbacks to the two previous Chrono games as fan service for the fans.
2.) Tell a simple, heartfelt story with some travel and parallel reality shenanigans
Nothing is better in video games when you create an emotional story that resonates with the player that anybody could relate to. You could have a story about how a person is dealing with the loss of a loved one and how if they had an opportunity to see them again, they would take that chance regardless of the consequences. You could also have an adventure where the hero is looking to find a better life for themselves and meet interesting people along the way while learning about them and each other (ALMOST similar to the first game). For example, I personally would give an opportunity to see a universe where my race is persecuted or judged by their skin color. It’d be great! However, the Big Bad would know about this ability as well and would try to take advantage of said power and leaving everybody to suffer; or something like that. Again, these are broad strokes of ideas but you can see where I’m getting at. That could resonate with a lot of gamers that would be talked about for years.
3.) Keep the combat engaging and turn-based (option 1)
Listen, I’m an old school JRPG head and I forever will have love and appreciation for turn based style gameplay. It has a place in today’s gaming. I mean look at Dragon Quest and the Persona series. Heck, the upcoming Yakuza 7 is going to be a turn based RPG game. I think the game should maintain an old school aesthetic while bringing in new elements to the experience.
4.) If you must, make the action RPG free flowing and smooth (option 2)
However, I am not a snob to Action RPG games and I often encourage action-based combat and/or experimental elements in RPGs. So if Square must, they should at least keep the combat simplistic, stylish, and smooth. Nier Automata is a game I often argue has one of the best Action RPG combat elements in a game. Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance is another one I recommend as an inspiration. Heck, be stylish and go for Devil May Cry 5’s combat style. You just employed the battle director of that game to your company. Might as well have him be in charge!
5.) Use time-based special moves and just get weird (in a good way)
You have the basic attacks along with magic and item use — you know, the standard RPG stuff — but get crazy with it when you use time-based attacks. Like you can slow your enemies attacks while you take advantage or speed things up to give you advantage. You can use time to change the battle arena. This one is a bit sketchy but I mean this just me “spitballing” ideas.
6.) Make the Big Bad not some cosmic entity but rather a misguided individual…better yet…make them the “CHRONO TRIGGER”
The last two Chrono games featured some cosmic entity that was trying to destroy life itself. Their presence is frightening to a degree but after a while that becomes a one trick pony. You will need to come up with something better if you want to get fans invested into the game. I’d say make the next major villain of the series the original “Chrono Trigger” before that role was passed on to you. I think it’ll be the biggest plot twist of the series thus far and would throw a lot of fans off. I could see something like that happening. It’ll be a great way to put an old spin on a classic “chosen hero” trope. The original chosen hero is actually the villain. Yeah, I would love that!
7.) Be sure to include diversity in a positive light
I mean this should be a given. I would like to see a diverse cast of characters instead of the usual anime tropes we see in JRPGs. No need for childhood friends as the leads (although that’s nice). I would like to see somebody who is adjusting to a new life but still misses their family. I would also love to see a transgender hero without the traumatic baggage (looking at you The Last of Us Part II). The world is a big place and Square should broaden their appeal instead of sticking to the standards that are kind of played out at this point.
These are all my wishes (for now)! I mean it’s very unlikely we will ever get a sequel for the Chrono series but it doesn’t mean I or anybody else won’t stop wishing for it! I sincerely hope Square dusts the series from its vault. Since we are entering a new console generation it would be great to see a new spin on an old classic.